Hi everyone, Tim here. I thought I would check in briefly on this little contract that the Cubs have extended to Mr. Soriano. I just can’t resist. The wedding yesterday was perfect; we’re jetting off to Cancun on Tuesday. I am a lucky man. The lovely Mrs. Dierkes is all tuckered out after the big weekend, so here are some random thoughts.
From a Cubs fan point of view: I love the Alfonso Soriano signing. As fans often say to justify insane contracts: "It’s not my money; I just want to win." I agree with that philosophy. The Yankees might take some heat for the way they throw around cash, but I think that’s rooted in jealousy. One has to think Red Sox fans will back off on the Evil Empire stuff now that their team just bid $51.1 mil to talk to a pitcher. Fans just want to win, right now. Doesn’t matter if Soriano is a $17MM bench warmer in 2014.
I don’t think anyone can believe it took eight years, though. Six, for sure. We figured the seventh year from someone might be the clincher. But eight? No one saw this coming. But is this the worst contract ever, or whatever various blogs are claiming? Of course not. Todd Helton? Even Darren Dreifort? This is not the worst contract ever or anything close to that. This is an athletic player who will probably age well. Soriano has proven quite durable, and he’s not anchored to first base. This is premium offense for a position where a .440 SLG is above average.
Is Soriano one of those players who learns to take a walk as he enters his early 30s? The Cubs are rolling the dice on that one. A player doesn’t nearly double his walk rate by accident, true, but one season doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend. If Soriano throws up a .310 OBP for the Cubs in 2007, well, this deal will look considerably worse. We just don’t know yet.
The second gamble for the Cubs is that Soriano can play a decent center field. I think he can. The tools are there; he should be above average by 2008. Of course, I’m no scout, but it’s not like someone is wishcasting Carlos Lee as a CF.
Is the money really that crazy? I don’t think so. Soriano may not be "worth it," but the supply of 40 HR center fielders consisted of only him. The demand was huge, the dollars and desperation were there. Comparing this to the Beltran and Guerrero contracts is silly. To do so implies that the market has remained the same for three years. What? Come on now. We all thought Derek Lowe at four years, $36MM was absurd. All of us except Paul DePodesta. Pitching exploded and it’s a bargain now. Manny’s contract is looking OK now. Soriano will never be a bargain. But Andruw Jones could snag a contract next year at, say, $175MM over eight years. Baseball is changing.
For once in this Cubs fan’s life, the team appears to be pulling a 1997 Marlins: just going for broke. Better living through free agency. It’s not a brilliant plan, and it’s not an efficient way to build a long-term winner. And yes, desperation is a large factor. But there’s no going back; the Cubs should drop another $15-18MM for two solid starters.
Bartman, the goat, Prior/Wood/Sammy – this crap is over. Maybe Derrek Lee’s wrist, Aramis Ramirez’s "laziness", Soriano’s OBP, and Zambrano’s wildness will converge next year to make the Cubs a pricey 80 win team. But even so, at least we can say for once that the Cubs are trying. To quote Gammons:
"Admit it: The game is always healthier when the Cubs are good, and in a week they have made themselves a whole lot better."